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Canine Osteochondritis Dissecans


Two bones meet at a joint, where there is a cover of cartilage for smooth movement.

With OCD, this cartilage cracks and can either:

  • Form a cartilage flap, which will not re-attach itself, or
  • Separate from the bone it usually covers. The piece of cartilage floating in the joints is called a "joint mouse." It is excruciating for your dog because these "joint mice" keep growing, causing joint inflammation and nerve irritation.


OCD is caused by rapid bone growth. Therefore, it primarily affects growing puppies of large breeds.


OCD most commonly affects the shoulder, but you may notice symptoms in the elbows, knees, or hips.

  • Lameness
  • Stiffness
  • Limping
  • Swollen, warm joint


Your dog will show pain and resistance when someone touches the affected joint. Your veterinarian can make a diagnosis based on:

  • Physical exam
  • X-rays


There are two options for treatment, depending on the severity of your dog's OCD:

1. Conservative treatment: includes weeks of strict rest for mild cases of a small crack in the cartilage or a small flap. Walking is only for bathroom trips.

In more than half of mild cases, the OCD heals on its own if you strictly enforce rest.

Other conservative treatments include:

  • Medications for inflammation
  • Supplements for joint health
  • Painkillers

2. Surgery: for more severe cases of a big flap, or "joint mice", or if conservative treatment was not effective. Your veterinarian will open the joint and remove the joint mice and defective cartilage. For a few weeks after surgery, you must minimize activity to allow for recovery.


  • Diet: feed a balanced diet to promote healthy bone growth, limit calcium intake and prevent excess weight-gain
  • Young, large-breed dogs should not do any strenuous activity, specifically jumping


There is a good prognosis with OCD in the shoulder. With other joints, OCD may lead to further issues.

With an early diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis will improve.

Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM

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